“How Much Will I Get Charged for This?” Patient Charges for Top Ten Diagnoses in the Emergency Department

Caldwell, Nolan; Srebotnjak, Tanja; Wang, Tiffany; Hsia, Renee
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
Objectives: We examined the charges, their variability, and respective payer group for diagnosis and treatment of the ten most common outpatient conditions presenting to the Emergency department (ED). Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of the 2006–2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Analysis was limited to outpatient visits with non-elderly, adult (years 18–64) patients with a single discharge diagnosis. Results: We studied 8,303 ED encounters, representing 76.6 million visits. Median charges ranged from $740 (95% CI $651–$817) for an upper respiratory infection to $3437 (95% CI $2917–$3877) for a kidney stone. The median charge for all ten outpatient conditions in the ED was $1233 (95% CI $1199– $1268), with a high degree of charge variability. All diagnoses had an interquartile range (IQR) greater than $800 with 60% of IQRs greater than $1550. Conclusion: Emergency department charges for common conditions are expensive with high charge variability. Greater acute care charge transparency will at least allow patients and providers to be aware of the emergency department charges patients may face in the current health care system.


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